P-61 Mountain Lion Struck by Car

Cougar who crossed 405 last month killed near Sepulveda Pass

By Keldine Hull

On September 7, GPS tracked mountain lion P-61 was struck and killed on the 405 freeway in the Sepulveda Pass, near the same section he’d successfully crossed less than two months ago. His final GPS point indicated that he was between Bel Air Crest Road and the Sepulveda Boulevard underpass.

According to a Facebook post from Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, “California Highway Patrol was initially alerted and moved P-61 out of traffic. City of Los Angeles Animal Control officers then retrieved his body and the radio-collar and notified both California Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel and our researchers here at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.”

Throughout the course of a 17-year study of mountain lions in or around the Santa Monica Mountains, P-61 made headlines in July as the first GPS tracked lion to successfully cross the 405 freeway. In 2011, P-18, a cougar outfitted with a GPS collar, was killed while trying to cross the same freeway. Although not a part of the study at the time, P-22 is the only known mountain lion to successfully cross the freeway. 

Researchers are still unclear why P-61, first outfitted with a GPS collar in October 2017, decided to cross the freeway again. The Facebook post continued, “Based on his GPS points, he had been staying close to the eastern edge of the 405 more recently. Over the last few years, we and others have gotten remote camera photos of an uncollared male mountain lion that apparently lives in that area. A negative encounter between the two could have caused P-61 to move back west.”

News of P-61’s passing comes shortly after the final design phase for the world’s largest wildlife crossing that would stretch 200 feet above 10 lanes of the 101 freeway. Slated to be completed in 2023, the new crossing will give animals of the Santa Monica Mountains safer access to food, open spaces and potential mates. In an interview with the Associated Press, Beth Pratt from the National Wildlife Federation said, “We’re not taking the freeway away from people. They can still drive yet we’re doing this beautiful thing for animals so that they don’t get hit by cars and so that they can have a future.”

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